Matthew 17 - Steve Wiggins Daily Devotional
“When they came to Capernaum those who collected the double-drachma tax approached Peter and said, ‘Doesn't your Teacher pay the double-drachma tax?’ ‘Yes,’ He said. When he went into the house, Yeshua spoke to him first, ‘What do you think, Simon? Who do earthly kings collect tariffs or taxes from? From their sons, or from strangers?’ ‘From strangers,’ he said. ‘Then the sons are free,” Yeshua told him. “But so we don’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and catch the first fish that comes up. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for me and you.’” Matthew 17:24-27
A “double-drachma” wasn't a wrestling move. It was a tax established in Exodus 30:11-16. The original purpose of the tax was to atone for any mortal sin that an Israelite soldier might commit in battle. The tax was completely unnecessary because Israel didn't have an army! It was even more unnecessary that Messiah, the One who would Himself atone for ALL sin, should pay the tax.
King Herod had greatly expanded the temple complex. Part of this expansion included the building of a marketplace. It was Herod’s version of WalMart. It has been suggested that Herod re-imposed the double drachma tax as a way of pressuring the public to pay for his construction projects.
Yeshua would not have sinned by ignoring the tax, yet He paid it. The temple was the house of the L-rd, and Yeshua detested what it had become. Herod’s expansions were designed to extort worshipers. Now, Yeshua, G_d’s Son, was being asked to pay for unwanted additions to His Father’s house! Yeshua had plans to take a whip and clear Herod’s merchants from the temple complex…but that would be another day.
Yeshua still had ministry to do around Galilee. Paying the tax kept Him and His disciples on the good side of the religious Jews in the area. He chose His battles wisely. He was winning souls as well as saving them. That’s a lesson for us all: Keep the main “thing” the main thing.
By asking Yeshua and Peter to pay the double-drachma, the tax collectors prove they didn't believe Yeshua was Messiah. They treated Him as a common stranger, with respect to G_d’s house, instead of its inheritor.
Finally, observe Yeshua and Peter didn't have money readily available. Yeshua showed Peter he would eventually be supported by a byproduct of evangelism: offerings. Fish symbolize evangelism. This system of community support is observed in Acts 2, where early Messianic believers committed “all they owned” to the community of believers, laying their belongings at the apostles’ feet. And the Messianic community is supported in this manner, even today, by the generous support of Kingdom-minded believers.
~SteveWiggins, Assistant Rabbi
Daily Devotional, Monday, May 6, 2013